When the schedule for the new Super Rugby Aoetearoa was released on Monday, the venues for the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders were all confirmed, with all three franchises set to play their home fixtures at their regular grounds.
But, while Hamilton’s FMG Stadium Waikato, Wellington’s Sky Stadium and Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium have all been locked in, a verdict awaits for Auckland’s Eden Park and Christchurch’s Orangetheory Stadium.
The Super Rugby Aotearoa fixture list shows that home matches for the Blues and Crusaders are still yet to be decided as the economic implications of coronavirus takes its toll on New Zealand’s two most successful club sides.
Blues chief executive Andrew Hore and Crusaders boss Colin Mansbridge both told Newshub on Monday that their franchises are still working through the financial aspects of playing at their usual home stadiums.
That has become more difficult, though, as a lack of ticket revenue and sale of both food and drink as well as merchandise has taken a hit on their respective balance sheets.
In the case of the Crusaders, maintenance issues, health and safety concerns and scheduling conflicts have added to the complexity of the problem.
A Stuff report released on Tuesday indicated that the two clubs are seeking reduced rates for ground use due to the fact that, until COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, fans won’t be able to attend matches.
According to the report, it costs the Blues $30,000 just to open its doors to fans at Eden Park, and the Auckland side are hopeful of reducing that figure to allow only a few hundred into the stadium to broadcast fixtures.
Should an agreement failed to be reached about rent fees, potential alternatives for the Blues include North Harbour’s QBE Stadium in Albany, or Penrose’s Mt Smart Stadium, home of the Warriors who remain in Australia as part of the coronavirus-impacted NRL season.
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